We all know how hard it is when our friends have lost someone they have loved be it a child, parent, spouse, relative, friend. Has this led you to not contacting them because you don’t know what to say or how to behave? Have you walked across the road, or turned into another shopping aisle when you see your friend? These are all behaviours that we tend to adopt when we are out of our comfort zone. The truth is there is no manual on how to behave, it is all in your own hands how you be behave. What you can do is imagine what you would like your friends to say to you if that had happened to you. That will always give you a starting point.
What can I do? How you can help overcome your fear:
1. If you don’t know what to say – admit that – be honest, this will give your friend the knowledge that you are not avoiding them. This can lead to your friend feeling isolated and closing off from the world. A friend is someone that can provide comfort by just being there. It also shows that you are with them in the good times and bad. Friendship allows true feelings to be shared, as well as fears. If they need someone to help with needing to sort out paperwork, helping with self care, doing the school rounds, etc you can be of practical help and support. This will then allow you to feel you are doing something to help.
2. Just ask how they are doing. You will be surprised at how they might just need to speak to someone about normal everyday things. If you are at their house, and you see them watching a video, or looking at a photo, talk about those – share your memories with them. Sometimes your friend will have a need to talk about the person they have lost, and you can give them that opportunity. It may be hard for them to speak about it at home. Having a friend allows them to talk about any insecurities and fears they have. Your friend just needs reassurance that their feelings, grief is founded.
3. Mention the child, spouse, family member, friend by name. You will be surprised at how many friends will not mention the deceased person by name, and that is hurtful. You could say something like “ i remember this video, we were doing this and “John, Julie” said this and we all burst into laughter. I miss them too. That will be helpful, as your friend will know they are not on their own, and that they can share their memories with you.
4. Visit your friend after the funeral. The hardest time for anyone, would be after the funeral, as that is the time when family and friends who came for the funeral with leave, and the person is then left to themselves, and that is when the pain hits, and when you will be needed the most. As this is when they slowly have to manage the outside world and their responsibilities. This could include explaining to their children, that their grandparents, siblings are no longer here. Informing the schools of this and trying to get counselling in place. As a friend this is something you could do.
5. Don’t use cliche phrases such as “ i understand how you feel”, “time heals”, as no one can really understand what someone is going through, and more importantly everyone grieves in their own way and time, and there is no limit to how long it will take. The truth is we never get over someone, we tend to learn to live with their memory.
6. Look after yourself too. Helping your friends can be emotionally exhausting too and it can bring up your own issues. If you need counselling yourself, ask for it.
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